How important is it?

Tracey

New member
For me it was the beginning

Interesting debate, as ever with subjects surrounding dance or creativity in general one can only come from a personal perspective.
For me from my very first trip back in 97 to now, going living eating breathing suffocating Cairo and Egypt in the broader sense, has become my drive and led me to the place I am now in my dance.
It is going to high end, low end nightclubs to watch not just the dancer but the band (oh the band). To see if any of that elusive understanding, interpretation will stick, for me it's my food .
I can say with my hand on my heart I am very very lucky for in the years I have been visiting Cairo I have seen Fifi four times a young unknown Dandash who made me cry ( I do that a lot) I have worked at Ahlan wa Sahlan four times and seen some of Rhanda and Dina's best ever performances, had dance lessons from the Bedouin in Bahariya oh and on and on. And yet I am always excited by what the next trip will bring and that is not just bling but a new experience of the dance which I love and has become such a large part of my life.
Tracey
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
For me, I'm torn right now between thinking I should go on one of the dance tours, or go and just SEE the place itself.

I was talking to a Turkish folk dance instructor and he told me to NOT go on the dance tours, but rather to go and see the country itself. That I would get more out of just BEING there and experiencing the place, rather than taking dance classes all day long.

Part of me wants to go to Ahlan Wa Sahlan so bad !!!!! but all of what I've heard makes me wonder if that particular festival is really worth it. If you're in class with 200 other people, can barely even SEE the instructor, and don't really get a chance to see the sites and stuff.

But then Tracey comes along and makes me really want to be part of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan experience .... sigh. :)


As to the Spanish horse manure reference -- in the south of Spain, horses are still commonly ridden places. The police are also mounted. They wash the streets down with water in the early evenings to wash away the manure. I wasn't complaining about the smell -- but it does give Seville a very unique "essence" that you don't really get until you're there.

Every place is like that. Travel writers call it "local color" but the more you experience it, the more you understand the local culture. I don't know how much more about flamenco rhythms I was able to absorb, but something about that experience made the whole idea of flamenco BIGGER and more grand for me. That's what I would hope to capture by going to Egypt. I'm just wondering if going on a regular tour would give me the same feeling as AWS.

There's another festival there too, isn't there? Aida Nour organizes it? Or am I confused?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Travel

For me, I'm torn right now between thinking I should go on one of the dance tours, or go and just SEE the place itself.

I was talking to a Turkish folk dance instructor and he told me to NOT go on the dance tours, but rather to go and see the country itself. That I would get more out of just BEING there and experiencing the place, rather than taking dance classes all day long.

Part of me wants to go to Ahlan Wa Sahlan so bad !!!!! but all of what I've heard makes me wonder if that particular festival is really worth it. If you're in class with 200 other people, can barely even SEE the instructor, and don't really get a chance to see the sites and stuff.

But then Tracey comes along and makes me really want to be part of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan experience .... sigh. :)


As to the Spanish horse manure reference -- in the south of Spain, horses are still commonly ridden places. The police are also mounted. They wash the streets down with water in the early evenings to wash away the manure. I wasn't complaining about the smell -- but it does give Seville a very unique "essence" that you don't really get until you're there.

Every place is like that. Travel writers call it "local color" but the more you experience it, the more you understand the local culture. I don't know how much more about flamenco rhythms I was able to absorb, but something about that experience made the whole idea of flamenco BIGGER and more grand for me. That's what I would hope to capture by going to Egypt. I'm just wondering if going on a regular tour would give me the same feeling as AWS.

There's another festival there too, isn't there? Aida Nour organizes it? Or am I confused?
Dear Aziyade,
Having spent my entire childhood as a military brat who did not spend more than two years ever in one place, travel is not really a big draw for me. ( I went to three different high schools in a year once, one for three whole days!!!) And I find that in order for people to really appreciate local color, they must first have some kind of affinity for the culture in which they find themselves.
I would agree with the guy who said go to the country, but not on the tour. The key to any dance is the people from whom it springs!!
My point is that there are numerous ways to assimilate culture and understanding of any given dance form or other cultural offering. One can do great Japanese pottery, I hear, even without going to Japan, but it helps to study with a Japanese master, have Japanese friends, eat Japanese food, have an understanding of why one piece is a tea vessel while another might hold saki, etc.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Eshta

New member
To copy Ai'sha's method, answers in context!:

Eshta:rather than a bunch of egoists using the term "egyptian" when they really mean "lazy" and is in fact no closer to Egyptian style belly dance, or even belly dance of any kind in some cases, than it is to any other style. Guess it's like breeding pedigrees: once you let the mongrel in, it's difficult to breed it out


Perhaps you would like to illuminate me as to the London scene, of which I know nothing. The teachers of Egyptian style I know seem to work very hard to improve what we do..and for lazy I think we usually say the Egyptian dancer make everything look effortless even though we know how hard they have worked to get to that standard. Name names for the I don't bother to attend these people's workshops.What is going on darn sarf?

Eshta: From what I've heard, the further north you go in the UK, the better the dancing gets, although it's not that it's bad daaan Saaath. I've also noticed a significant improvement over the last few years. But my blood does boil (and I believe boiled over in writing the above) at the volume of people teaching who don't know enough themselves and aren't doing anything to further their education. I have also attended classes where I've been told nonsense: for example that Egyptians don't dance on toes, only flat footed because it's earthier - WTF?! That's the kind of laziness I'm referring to. I certainly don't find Egyptian belly dance lazy in the slightest!!

and up here we find most Arab communities open and friendly although quite obviously they are wary of the backlash some Muslim communities felt after 9/11 and London bombings. In every community you get some who don't welcome intrusion, I suppose they might be fearful we might grab their men and breed ...er ...was it mongrels:lol:

Eshta: Yes, most are friendly here too but maybe it's the London effect, people are a bit more distant around here, and I can really feel the change when I talk to Arabs now than pre 9/11 and especially 7/7.

You know that last sentence is : :confused:confused: like mongrels they tend to be smart and loyal and let's face it most Brits are mongrels:D

Eshta: Me too, but not if you're trying to breed a purebreed/pedigree :D which I believe is the theme of the thread: a pedigree Egyptian style!

So if you apply that to the dance scene which is constantly evolving...elements which may seem alien at one time do not later on. Do we have to take the ballet infulence out of belly dance, do we lose the andalouse, do you not want to include folkloric styles? I see Turkish dancers dancing very much in an Egyptian style and Turkish elements in Egyptian style dancers, folkloric "episodes" in a danse orientale set..does it matter if it is well done?
Eshta: Not sure where I stand on this one yet, still deliberating over where the line is drawn, however the thread that started the topic referred specifically to Egyptian style, hence why I focussed on that in particular. I think the question of "does it matter if it is well done" has been a consistent theme underlying many debates on this forum, none of which I've engaged in as I'm still working out my views in my own mind!
 

lizaj

New member
Oh I so agree about "the rest on their laurels types"...don't worry they exist up here but fortunately we do have a fair number of well known teachers who take every opportunity to keep learningthemselves. To me that is what's unforgiveable that you get to teach and think mmmm No one can teach me anything now!I know there are constraints of cash flow, family committments for some but as you say, you cannot go on in class telling your students you are any kind of expert if you don't make some sort of effort to update.
They are so good these people at reckoning they know it all instead of being realistic with their students. I teach the way I have been taught and apart from some very obvious basics, I tell them there are dancers out there doing it differently to me and it ain't necessarily wrong!
 

Kashmir

New member
Dear Aziyade,
I would agree with the guy who said go to the country, but not on the tour. The key to any dance is the people from whom it springs!!
My point is that there are numerous ways to assimilate culture and understanding of any given dance form or other cultural offering. One can do great Japanese pottery, I hear, even without going to Japan, but it helps to study with a Japanese master, have Japanese friends, eat Japanese food, have an understanding of why one piece is a tea vessel while another might hold saki, etc.
Regards,
A'isha
Depends on the tour. I went with an Australian Egyptian and a bunch of dancers. The tour was slanted to getting to see lots of dance rather than monuments (although we saw quite a bit any way). We avoided the big hotel chains and stayed in good hotels that also catered for locals (as a result a couple were dry which annoyed some people who couldn't live without booze for a few days). We got to meet some of Ali's friends and family and visit some non-tourist areas. Yet, we were relatively safe, had our food, accomodation and transport arranged and bribes paid.
 

Kharmine

New member
Depends on the tour. I went with an Australian Egyptian and a bunch of dancers. The tour was slanted to getting to see lots of dance rather than monuments (although we saw quite a bit any way). We avoided the big hotel chains and stayed in good hotels that also catered for locals (as a result a couple were dry which annoyed some people who couldn't live without booze for a few days). We got to meet some of Ali's friends and family and visit some non-tourist areas. Yet, we were relatively safe, had our food, accomodation and transport arranged and bribes paid.
I'd love that kind of tour, particularly as the security issue concerns me.

Raqs sharqi is the mother of all belly dance -- as such, learning it in Egypt from good teachers would be highly useful for anyone of any belly dance style, IMHO. And, um, yes, folks, that includes "cabaret" style - why wouldn't it? I doubt the Egyptians themselves make any such false distinctions when teaching people of different backgrounds -- or asking them to dance.

No matter what our resources are around us, there's no experience like the hands-on and the up-front. We can learn a lot in various ways in our own little corners of the world, but firsthand experience done right beats the vicarious and secondhand any time.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance

The thing is that many Egyptian dancers don't have first hand experience being a sick tourist in a country far from home, or being appalled when they see people burn up a dog, or being frightened when a group of beggars jumps on their car, or seeing a little kid with paralyzed legs dragging himself along the street on a piece of cardboard, or not being able to brush their teeth with tap water, or not having any ice in their drinks or eating any fresh vegetables, etc. when they are in Egypt. Pretty hard to concentrate on dance when all that is going on. Everything that I mentioned here has been in the experience of people that I know who visit Egypt, by the way.
A'isha Azar
 

lizaj

New member
The thing is that many Egyptian dancers don't have first hand experience being a sick tourist in a country far from home, or being appalled when they see people burn up a dog, or being frightened when a group of beggars jumps on their car, or seeing a little kid with paralyzed legs dragging himself along the street on a piece of cardboard, or not being able to brush their teeth with tap water, or not having any ice in their drinks or eating any fresh vegetables, etc. when they are in Egypt. Pretty hard to concentrate on dance when all that is going on. Everything that I mentioned here has been in the experience of people that I know who visit Egypt, by the way.
A'isha Azar
It's awful for people to have such experiences but when taken ill overseas if you are well insured you usually get treated in private clinics with very high standards. I was unlucky enough to contract bacterial pnemonia in Turkey and have nothing but praise for the treatment and care I received form wonderful doctors and nurses in the Antalya hospital and who undoubtably saved my life. I was in a hospital attended by everyone local and foreigner alike and standards were extremely high in care and hygeine.
It's not stopped me from visiting Egypt Morocco and Tunisia. If you do worry I suppose it's best to stay at home but you will miss out. I'm 60 and do have certain health issues, luckily not major and wouldn't miss out on going again to these countries.

And yes I agree you see sights you'd rather not - extreme poverty but that just makes me more grateful for my privaleged life of relative comfort here in the UK. As a vegetarian I found the butchers shops of North Africa somewhat daunting. I hate flies, beggars with missing limbs etc are very distressing. Yes it's all there! But you will see charity being handed out willingly by local Moslems living according to the faith if not by tourists.
What we see as neglect and cruelty to animals is a sad fact of life but it's balanced by mostly welcoming and hospitable people because that's what their religion and culture demands of them. And also balanced by a fantastic past, historical sights such as those of ancient Egypt and Islamic architecture, the craftsmanship in the souks, the food.
Yes it's all around but so is music and dance and laughter. An early traveller described Cairo as the smiling city and I found a tremendous lot of smiling going on. And I know 2 British dancers who have made their lives in Egypt and have no intention of returning.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Lisaj,
I am more than likely going to spend some time in Cairo ( and a trip to Alexandria to deliver presents to friends' of mine's families), next year. I have lived in places where you can't drink the water, and it is not amusing, no matter how many fine doctors there are to treat me. As far as cruelty of any kind, there is NOTHING that balances that for the poor, the victimized, etc. no matter how many other smiling people there are. It's easy to sit on the other side of the fence and rationalize. I may sound like Ursula LeGuin, who wrote "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", but there it is.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
One of my favorite stories, A'isha. Did you get to live a lot of places overseas while you were growing up?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Shanazel,
Urusla LeGuin can really hit home with a point, can she not? I have not lived a lot of places overseas, only a few. I have lived in places where the water is undrinkable for people who are not natives. The one I remember best is, I have a school photo of myself from a school I went to in Newfoundland, and I have these horrible scabs all over my mouth from drinking the water at school. We boiled our water at home, but I was quite young, like, 5 years old, and did not connect it. I also caught something and had to stay home for a couple of weeks once,again from drinking the water. We also were not supposed to drink milk from the cows on the Island, so all of our milk was powdered, and put into the water that we boiled. And that was still in North America!!
Another point I would like to make is that when I was a child,it never felt like I "got" to live in a lot of different places, but more like I "had" to move again, leave my friends behind, be the new kid at school again, get used to the new surroundings and social situation, etc. The good part of this is that one never really gets a very ethnocentric mind set because you simply are not there long enough for it to happen. Even in just moving from one part of the U.S. to the another, there is a vast difference.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Yes, I understand about having to move as opposed to getting to move. I didn't move as often as you did, but I think I racked up around a dozen or so towns before I got to chose to stay put as an adult.

The worst water I ever had, by the way, was in Cholame, California on the way from the central valley to Morro Bay. It was undrinkable, and the water in my home town in Arkansas wasn't far behind in sheer unpalatability. Hope was built on a swamp and you could smell chlorine in the water as soon as you opened a tap.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Water, etc.

Dear Shanazel,
Yeah, it can be a bummer to move all the time. I suppose it has helped me in may ways, though, too. When I was 19, I finally moved to a place where I have spent my entire adulthood. I have even lived in the same house for about 27 years now. My daughter has a place that is her real home.
We also have terrible water here, but I am not afraid to drink it. I only choose to drink bottled water because the chlorine is very noticeable in the city water here in Spokane. it might be safe, but it sure ain't good!!
Mark Balahadia and I were talking on the phone last night about maybe meeting up in Egypt in April. He was reading from a book about the shots we need to get. It is pretty daunting since we even have to get a polio booster, and perhaps rabies vaccination. EEEWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! We were laughing our butts off by the time we got through the section about avoiding watching out for black hooded cobras and carpet vipers, not eating any street food or drinking the water, how the air in the big museum is practically unbreathable because of the bus station right near it, how we should pack a Malaria kit, etc. Oh, and don't fall in any standing water, either as it isn't pretty. I thought , hhhmmmm.... they should give us the same advice for going to L.A. in August!!
Regards,
A'isha
 

lizaj

New member
Dear Lisaj,
I am more than likely going to spend some time in Cairo ( and a trip to Alexandria to deliver presents to friends' of mine's families), next year. I have lived in places where you can't drink the water, and it is not amusing, no matter how many fine doctors there are to treat me. As far as cruelty of any kind, there is NOTHING that balances that for the poor, the victimized, etc. no matter how many other smiling people there are. It's easy to sit on the other side of the fence and rationalize. I may sound like Ursula LeGuin, who wrote "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", but there it is.
Regards,
A'isha
Oh I sympathise.... I spent my early years in a country battered by war, playing on bomb sites, chronic shortage of decent housing,food strictly rationed, hand me down clothes, my grandparents had no inside running water nor toilets nor electricty and we had to save up for doctor's and dentists. We fed our rescued kitten on left over scraps..no cat food then. School classes were 50+ and no one had a such a luxury as a automobile unless you were rich, no TV just a night out at the moves as a luxury. Yes I am talking Britain. It was in a hell of a mess in the late 40s through to the 60s just like a lot of Europe and needed US money to survive.The scary thing is...it doesn't seem that long ago:D
No way does that excuse or make acceptable the way some have to live in nor the way animals are treated in the developing world but sorry, I don't feel guilty for visting it. I wish its' people well and some of them are beginning to start up animal welfare agencies and realise that you get more out of a well treated working animal.
 

lizaj

New member
..and to return to the thread I do think there is great value in travelling to lands of dance. Ballet dancers would no doubt dream of visiting Russia and Line Dancers the US.
I have to confess that I don't just wear a dancers belt when I visit Turkey , Egypt Morocco etc..the historian in me gets all enthusiastic too....
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Lisaj,
While I also believe there is great value in traveling to the lands where the dance originated, I think there are other ways to learn about the culture, people and all of the other elements that make up the dance. My point was that we can not negate other methods of learning besides traveling there; especially on some of the tours I have heard about! I also see many dancers returning from Egypt having learned nothing, if we judge by watching them dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 

lizaj

New member
Dear Lisaj,
While I also believe there is great value in traveling to the lands where the dance originated, I think there are other ways to learn about the culture, people and all of the other elements that make up the dance. My point was that we can not negate other methods of learning besides traveling there; especially on some of the tours I have heard about! I also see many dancers returning from Egypt having learned nothing, if we judge by watching them dance.
Regards,
A'isha

Oh I agree..they have to follow up and a dancer will always learn from others who have travelled or studied with the masters of a particular style. I like to think I have a good grasp of ATS despite never having been to California as I have studied with Wendy Marlett, Paulette Rees Denis and Domba and 2 British teachers who have danced "over there".
But there is a magic in seeing dancing in situ' and I would love to travel to the home of ATS as I have to Cairo and Turkey.
Mind you I am a little daunted by what I may have to face at the hands of US immigration!;) even if the water's OK
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Dear Lisaj,
Actually, my friends who still live in the City (San Francisco) say that the water there is not for drinking, though you can still bathe in it!! I graduated from high school in Marin County, just above San Francisco, back when it was still pretty reasonable to expect a safe ride when hitchhiking!!
Regards,
A'isha
 
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